Double duty: Working on and off the farm

An Oxford County beef farmer shares tips on successfully managing a heavy workload

By Kate Ayers
Staff Writer

John Mason stays busy year-round with his construction company, marathon training and coaching – in addition to working on his family’s beef farm.

His parents Martin and Liz own a 100-acre farm in Oxford County. John has a few cows on the farm and puts in some sweat equity.

Together, the family run a 30-head cow-calf operation, raising purebred Shorthorn cattle. The Masons use most of the farmland for hay and pasture but “the past few years we have planted a small plot of 10 to 12 acres of corn for fall and winter grazing,” John told Better Farming.

John with cows
    Facebook photo

Although he loves being on the farm and working with cattle, Mason had to supplement his income with off-farm work.

Mason followed his passion for construction, leading him to establish JWM Quality Construction. He is the sole employee and his expertise covers all facets of home improvements and renovations.

“Growing up, my grandfather was extremely handy, and we were always building things,” Mason said.

“High school shop class, and then college and a co-op work term for a custom home builder, made it clear this was a career I loved.”

In 2010, he completed Fanshawe College’s construction management technology program.

Afterwards, as a Fanshawe alumni, he wanted to give back and became an assistant coach for the cross-country running team.

John coaching
    Facebook photo

Mason became involved when his “college teammate and friend took the head coaching position in 2016,” he said.

“She recommended me and another friend to be on the coaching staff. Since then, I have also started coaching a few serious sub-elite and recreational runners online through email. I love talking about running just as I do talking about cows.”

The coaching position came naturally to Mason as he is an elite marathon runner, with a personal best of 2 hours, 18 minutes and 25 seconds for the 42.2-kilometre (26.2-mile) race. He looks to improve upon this impressive time in 2019.

John running
    Facebook photo

“I would like to qualify for a national team and run in a Canada singlet at an international competition,” Mason said.

The time of “2 hours and 18 minutes was below the 2017 World Track and Field Championship standard. We will have to see what the qualification standards are for 2019, but I hope to run faster again this spring.”

To manage his daily demands, Mason has learned that organization and checklists are key to success. His father also plays an integral role on the farm.

“Luckily Dad is still the man on the farm – he works like someone half his age,” John said.

“I just fill in the voids of the labour force. We try to plan projects and jobs that require both of us around our schedules.

“I try to stay organized and make lots of notes to plan out my days. I usually have checklists for the day with what needs to get done. If I don’t write it down, it usually gets missed or forgotten.”

In a given week, Mason will spend at least 15 hours training, up to 10 hours coaching, 30 to 40 hours working in construction and then another 15 to 20 hours on the farm. He does a lot of this farm work in the evenings and on weekends.

John judging
    Facebook photo

Although he is well versed in time management, sometimes, managing this workload can be tiresome and stressful.

“Summer is the busiest time of the year for the business and during haying,” he said.

However, “being my own boss, I can be flexible with my schedule and split time between farm work and my construction business.”

Indeed, running and some farm chores help him cope with stress and wind down from a busy day.

“Stress in life is inevitable. Running is when I can clear my mind, and work through issues and troubles from the day. Walking pastures on summer nights looking at calves developing is also one of my favourite stress-free places,” he added. BF

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